Notes from ALlan Herschlag
I hope the New Year finds you all well.
First, we have an upcoming special election On March 5th, to fill two seats on the city council. Dan St. Hilaire’s seat in Ward 10, he has been appointed as a judge. The other is for Steve Shurtleff’s at large seat, which he resigned when he was elected speaker of the House of Representatives.
There are four candidates who have signed up to run at large. Byron Champlin the current Ward 4 city councilor, Michael Dobrinski who resides on Curtice Ave., David Sky who ran for the Ward 10 seat in the last citywide election and initially signed up for the Ward 10 race again and David Parker, who owns Parker Academy and has served on city boards in the past.
The at large seat is a four year position. Steve Shrutleff’s term would have ended in November, so this seat on the city council will once again be contested in November. Also of note, Councilor Champlin does not have to resign his Ward 4 seat to run at large for the special election. Should he lose he will remain the Ward 4 city councilor. If he wins it will necessitate another special election to fill the Ward 4 seat.
Hopefully there will be an opportunity to hear the candidates positions and to ask them questions. if there are no scheduled citywide forums for the candidates, I will try and schedule a candidates forum at the Newell Post Restaurant, as we have done in the past.
Candice Bouchard was elected mayor pro tem to replace Dan St. Hilaire.
We had a presentation from Cory Goldstone from the Greater United Way on a free tax preparation service for households with incomes of $66,000 or less. There are a number of ways to receive further information about Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). You can call the State’s helpline at 211, or visit NHTaxHelp.org. You can also visit MYFreeTaxes.com to prepare your own return, with guidance from a toll free helpline.
I had a number of items on the agenda that were referred to staff. Two related to NH House Bills. One bill would have the state at least partially reintroduce funding to municipalities for contributions to the state retirement system. In the past the state provided 35% of a municipalities employees retirement costs. The loss of that funding costs our city approximately $2 million per year. This $2 million does not include the loss of funding to the Concord and Merrimack Valley School Districts for teacher retirement costs.
The other bill - our city solicitor testified at - was to create an appeals board for housing issues that would allow those appealing land use board decisions a choice of going to the
Superior Court or filing with the proposed Housing Appeals Board.
The real focus for bringing these two items forward is to open a discussion with the administration to have them keep us and you apprised of the great work they do in looking out for our city.
Two city issues that I referred. One looking into ways to incorporate affordable work force housing in our community and the other to look into if we should have a requirement for a percentage of low income units in elderly housing developments.
I hope this opens a discussion on two fronts. How do we continue to provide housing for all income levels in the city and how do we afford to pay for the services for all those that live here. It is important to continue to look for ways to meet the need for housing with subsequent commercial growth in order to balance the property tax costs to the community.
The second item was to look at the costs of electronically recording all city board and committee meetings. While minutes are taken at these meetings there is no requirement that they are verbatim. Having an electronic record (as we do at city council, planning and zoning board meetings) will provide an opportunity for those who don’t attend these meetings to hear all the proceedings.
RIVCO Rezoning Request
For those of you who pay the school portion of your property taxes to the MVSD, the city council referred a request to Planning from the owner of the RIVCO property for a zoning change. According to preliminary information, the rezoning could allow for two, six story apartment buildings with approximately 240 units. There is also a request for a zoning change for the parking lot on the other side of the street. This would permit denser residential development than is currently allowed. Additionally there are requests to change current height and buffer requirements.
At this juncture it is all preliminary and as with most issues the devil is in the details. What type of housing. Families or elderly. Will it impact the schools. Will there need to be improvements that will be rolled into the tif district or will the developer pay for improvements up front. What about added traffic and will there need to be improvements to the road(s) adjacent to the site. Who pays and how is it paid for.
I continue to have concerns about our property tax rates. In particular the cost to homeowners and the rate we pay in Penacook. The latest tax information from the Department of Revenue Administration as of December 19, 2019, lists Penacook’s tax rate of $33.60 as the 11th highest in the state. Only Charleston-$37.54, Claremont-
$42.08, Gotham-$36.51, Hinsdale-$35.20, Hopkinton-$34.74, Keene-$37.21, Northumberland-$34.04, Sullivan-$33.68, Troy-$34.78 and Winchester-$34.73 have higher rates. (This assumes I counted correctly.)
Tax increment finance (tif) districts and the use of tax relief through RSA 79E can be
used to spur economic development. At the same time it is important to remember that the bulk of revenue for communities in New Hampshire comes from property taxes and resident fees.
If revenue (property taxes) from new developments are tied up to pay for improvements or is deferred, a communities increasing costs fall on those already paying property taxes. True economic development should allow for at least a portion of the new revenue to be used to help stabilize property tax rates.
It is not enough to have economic development without having new revenue available
to pay for city wide, school and county expenses. Even though in Concord and Penacook we saw a slight decrease in the tax rate, the increase in assessed value still meant that we are paying more.
The city recently increased the General Fund debt service expenditures from 10% to between 10 and 14% of total appropriations. Add this to the budget for revenue and expense projections for the next five years and continuing increases in assessed property values and there is the potential for significant increases in the city portion of the tax rate.
Having government that is responsive is your responsibility. Be sure to vote. Don’t be bashful. Contact your city councilor or the administration when you have a question or a concern. And remember your voice only counts when it is heard.
It looks like we may have some snow for the upcoming weekend, so let’s all get out there and revel in our New Hampshire winter - Allan
As always I can be contacted at: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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